Qatar GP: Verstappen fastest as drivers get first taste of Losail

Max Verstappen topped opening practice for the Qatar Grand Prix as the Formula 1 drivers got their first taste of the Losail International Circuit on Friday afternoon.

Drivers' championship leader Verstappen enjoyed a decent margin over AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly and Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas by the end of FP1, starting the weekend on the right foot for Red Bull.

First practice in Qatar took place in daytime, meaning it was not fully representative of either qualifying or the race, both of which will begin at dusk in cooler conditions.

Verstappen spent the early part of FP1 on the hard compound tyre, trading fastest times with McLaren's Lando Norris on mediums, but was able to enjoy a 0.3 second margin over the field once they had completed their initial runs.

While Bottas initially took P1 for Mercedes when making the switch to soft tyres - despite running beyond track limits on his fastest lap - Verstappen was able to strike back and post a best time of 1m23.723s.

It gave Verstappen top spot by four tenths by the end of the session as former teammate Gasly shot up to second place with a quick run using the soft tyres late on.

Red Bull did query the abuse of track limits during the session after the FIA opted not to delete any laps despite revealing it would be policing five corners this weekend on Thursday. Race director Michael Masi told the team he was letting drivers "find their feet" in FP1 before clamping down later in the weekend.

Verstappen's title rival, Lewis Hamilton, could only finish the session in fourth place, 0.786s off the Red Bull's lap. Throughout the session, Hamilton reported that his engine felt down on power, but was reassured by his race engineer that his straightline speed was not hugely down on that of his rivals.

Hamilton debuted a special helmet design for the Qatar weekend in FP1. The design prominently features the Progress Pride flag, which combines the rainbow LGBTQ+ flag, black and brown stripes to represent marginalised LGBTQ+ communities of colour, and the transgender pride flag.

Yuki Tsunoda finished the session an impressive fifth, giving AlphaTauri two cars in the top five, while Carlos Sainz was the lead Ferrari in sixth place ahead both he and Charles Leclerc in seventh opted for a late run on the softs.

Sergio Perez took eighth for Red Bull ahead of Alpine's Esteban Ocon and Norris, both of whom set their fastest times on the medium compound tyre. Norris was forced to pit after appearing to lose power following a run over the kerbs at the exit of Turn 15, but got back to the pits and returned to the track later in the session.

Daniel Ricciardo took 11th for McLaren ahead of Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel, who reported that he felt something loose by his right foot in the session, prompting the team to pit him.

Nicholas Latifi led Williams' efforts by finishing 13th, three places clear of teammate George Russell as the duo were split by Alfa Romeo teammates Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen.

Fernando Alonso could only finish 17th for Alpine after the team was forced to prop his car up on jacks early in the session to complete some work. He was able to return to the track and complete 21 laps in total.

Mick Schumacher escaped a trip through the gravel late in the session to finish 18th for Haas ahead of Lance Stroll, who reported a brake failure and could complete just 11 laps. Nikita Mazepin propped up the running order in the second Haas car, finishing eight tenths of a second off his teammate's time.

Cla Driver Chassis Laps Time Gap
1 Netherlands Max Verstappen
Red Bull 22 1'23.723
2 France Pierre Gasly
AlphaTauri 28 1'24.160 0.437
3 Finland Valtteri Bottas
Mercedes 24 1'24.194 0.471
4 United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton
Mercedes 21 1'24.509 0.786
5 Japan Yuki Tsunoda
AlphaTauri 27 1'24.648 0.925
6 Spain Carlos Sainz Jr.
Ferrari 26 1'24.713 0.990
7 Monaco Charles Leclerc
Ferrari 27 1'24.790 1.067
8 Mexico Sergio Perez
Red Bull 22 1'24.915 1.192
9 France Esteban Ocon
Alpine 23 1'24.972 1.249
10 United Kingdom Lando Norris
McLaren 19 1'25.215 1.492
11 Australia Daniel Ricciardo
McLaren 24 1'25.291 1.568
12 Germany Sebastian Vettel
Aston Martin 19 1'25.328 1.605
13 Canada Nicholas Latifi
Williams 24 1'25.688 1.965
14 Italy Antonio Giovinazzi
Alfa Romeo 23 1'25.757 2.034
15 Finland Kimi Raikkonen
Alfa Romeo 25 1'25.828 2.105
16 United Kingdom George Russell
Williams 24 1'25.871 2.148
17 Spain Fernando Alonso
Alpine 21 1'25.905 2.182
18 Germany Mick Schumacher
Haas 21 1'26.699 2.976
19 Canada Lance Stroll
Aston Martin 11 1'26.712 2.989
20 Russian Federation Nikita Mazepin
Haas 16 1'27.500 3.777
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